My Blog

By Dr. Mark C. Pothitakis
September 06, 2020
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: oral health   pregnancy  
EliminatinganInfantsLiporTongueTieCanMakeBreastfeedingEasier

Most babies come into the world ready and able to nourish at their mother's breast—no training required! About one in ten children, though, may have a structural abnormality with their tongue or lip that makes it difficult for them to breastfeed.

The abnormality involves a small strip of tissue called a frenum or frenulum, which is found in the mouth connecting soft tissue to more rigid structures. You'll find a frenum attaching the upper lip to the gums, while another connects the underside of the tongue to the floor of the mouth.

Frenums are a normal part of oral anatomy and usually don't pose a problem. But if the frenum tissue is too short, thick or tight, it could restrict lip or tongue movement. If so, a baby may not be able to achieve a good seal on their mother's nipple, causing them to ineffectively chew rather than suck to access the mother's milk. Such a situation guarantees an unpleasant experience for both mother and baby.

The problem can be addressed with a minor surgical procedure performed in a dentist's office. During the procedure, the dentist first numbs the area with an anesthetic gel. The frenum is then snipped with scissors or a laser.

With very little if any post-procedure care, the baby can immediately begin nursing. But although the physical impediment may be removed, the child may need to “relearn” how to nurse. It may take time for the baby to readjust, and could require help from a professional.

Nursing isn't the only reason for dealing with an abnormally shortened frenum. Abnormal frenums can interfere with speech development and may even widen gaps between the front teeth, contributing to poor bite development. It's often worthwhile to clip a frenum early before it creates other problems.

It isn't absolutely necessary to deal with a “tongue” or “lip tie” in this manner—a baby can be nourished by bottle. But to gain the physical and emotional benefits of breastfeeding, taking care of this particular problem early may be a good option.

If you would like more information on the problem of tongue or lip ties in infants, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Tongue Ties, Lip Ties and Breastfeeding.”

By Dr. Mark C. Pothitakis
September 01, 2020
Category: Oral Health
Tags: toothache  
YourToothacheMightSignalaProblemOtherThaninYourMouth

You expect a decayed tooth, a fracture or a gum infection to be the cause for that toothache causing you grief. Sometimes, though, the answer may be “none of the above”—there's nothing wrong going on in your mouth to cause the pain.

You pain is real—but its source is elsewhere in the body, a situation known as referred pain. It's important to find out the pain's true source to determine what kind of treatment you'll need to alleviate it.

Here are some of the likely candidates for a “toothache” that's not a toothache.

Facial nerves. Tooth pain may be associated with trigeminal neuralgia, a misfiring disorder of the trigeminal nerves that course through either side of the face. The nerve is divided into three branches, two of which are located in the upper face and one in the lower jaw. Because they're interconnected, a problem with one of the branches in other parts of the face could be felt in the branch around the jaw.

Jaw joints. Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMD) can cause pain in the pair of joints that connect the lower jaw to the skull. The joints can become inflamed due to stress or trauma and the associated muscles begin spasming, causing severe pain. Because of their proximity to the teeth, the pain from the joints can radiate into the dental area and mimic a toothache.

Ear or sinus infections. Both the ears and the maxillary sinus are subject to infections that can cause severe pain and pressure. With the close proximity of both the ears and the sinus to the upper jaw, it's quite possible for pain originating in these structures to be felt within the mouth.

These are only a few of the possibilities that also include migraines, shingles, fibromyalgia and even vitamin deficiencies. As such, your dentist or physician may need to do a little detective work to locate the true cause. But the effort to locate where your mouth pain is actually coming from will help ensure you get the right treatment to give you lasting relief.

If you would like more information on referred tooth pain, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Referred Pain: When a Toothache Is Not Really a Toothache.”

By Dr. Mark C. Pothitakis
August 27, 2020
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: dental implant  
3BenefitsofDentalImplantstoReplaceMissingTeeth

Here's the bad news on the overall state of dental health in the United States: Over 120 million people have one or more missing teeth—roughly one American in three. But there's also good news: We can replace missing teeth with a number of effective restorative methods. At the top of the list are dental implants, highly regarded by dentists and patients alike as the most lifelike and functional tooth replacement system available.

Dental implants have been growing in popularity since their introduction in the 1980s. Their structural design and construction have continued to improve, giving patients even more options for implant-based tooth replacement.

To bring greater attention to the benefits of this popular restoration, the American Academy of Implant Dentistry (AAID) designated August as Dental Implant Month in 2016. In recognition, here are 3 of those benefits you might gain from choosing dental implants to replace your missing teeth.

Durability. Unlike other restorations such as conventional dentures or bridges, implants replace the entire root structure of the tooth. To be more precise, implants are a tooth root replacement in the form of a post imbedded securely in the jawbone. As the bone grows around and attaches to the implant, it develops a durable and highly functional hold that can last for decades.

Adaptability. Many people assume dental implants are used only to replace individual teeth, but implants can also support multi-tooth restorations. A few strategically placed implants can securely attach a partial or total bridge to the jaw, or provide added support for a removable denture.

Affordability. At first glance, an implant's initial cost places it at the high end of the scale for tooth replacement options. But because of their long-term durability and high success rate (greater than 95% still in place after ten years), implants may cost less in the long run than lower-priced restorations that may require repair or replacement sooner.

Although they have a wide range of applications, implants aren't suited for some dental situations. Because implants require a minimum amount of bone present in the jaw, for example, extensive bone loss might nullify them as a current option. Even in this case, though, grafting therapy to rebuild the bone could make it possible to place dental implants at some point in the future.

If you've recently lost a tooth or you have an older restoration you'd like to replace, dental implants might be a great option for you. Your first step is an initial exam and consultation to find out if this premier dental restoration is right for you.

If you would like more information about dental implants, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dental Implants: Your Third Set of Teeth.”

By Dr. Mark C. Pothitakis
August 22, 2020
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   vaping  
StudiesShowVapingMayNotBeSaferforOralHealthThanTobacco

There's ample evidence tobacco smoking increases your risk for tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease. But the same may be true for electronic cigarettes (E-cigs): Although millions have turned to “vaping” believing it's a safer alternative to smoking, there are growing signs it might also be harmful to oral health.

An E-cig is a device with a chamber that holds a liquid solution. An attached heater turns the liquid into a vapor the user inhales, containing nicotine, flavorings and other substances. Because it doesn't contain tar and other toxic substances found in tobacco, many see vaping as a safer way to get a nicotine hit.

But a number of recent research studies seem to show vaping isn't without harmful oral effects. A study from Ohio State University produced evidence that E-cig vapor interferes with the mouth's bacterial environment, or oral microbiome, by disrupting the balance between harmful and beneficial bacteria in favor of the former. Such a disruption can increase the risk for gum disease.

Other studies from the University of Rochester, New York and Universit? Laval in Quebec, Canada also found evidence for vaping's negative effects on oral cells. The Rochester study found astringent flavorings and other substances in vaping solutions can damage cells. The Quebec study found a staggering increase in the normal oral cell death rate from 2% to 53% in three days after exposure to E-cig vapor.

Nicotine, E-cig's common link with tobacco, is itself problematic for oral health. This addictive chemical constricts blood vessels and reduces blood flow to the mouth's tissues. This not only impedes the delivery of nutrients to individual cells, but also reduces available antibodies necessary to fight bacterial infections. Regardless of how nicotine enters the body—whether through smoking or vaping—it can increase the risk of gum disease.

These are the first studies of their kind, with many more needed to fully understand the effects of vaping on the mouth. But the preliminary evidence they do show should cause anyone using or considering E-cigs as an alternative to smoking to think twice. Your oral health may be hanging in the balance.

If you would like more information on the effects of vaping on oral health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.

By Dr. Mark C. Pothitakis
August 17, 2020
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: dental implant  
ReplaceYourTeethinStagesWiththeHelpofDentalImplants

Complete tooth loss is a common condition among older adults, gradually occurring one or two teeth at a time. There often comes a point of realization, though, that all the teeth will eventually be lost.

This can create a dilemma: Do you replace teeth as they're lost, or go ahead and have all of them removed at one time?

Up until recently, the latter choice seemed the most practical and affordable. But most dentists would agree that keeping natural teeth for as long as practical is better for a person's overall oral health and to slow any potential bone loss.

The emergence of dental implants has made this less of a dilemma: We can use this technology to more affordably replace teeth in stages rather than all at once. This is because an implant is technically a root replacement: a dentist inserts a titanium metal post into the jawbone. Because of an affinity with titanium, bone cells grow and adhere to the implant surface, which creates a stronger hold. It also impedes bone loss.

We can, of course, use implants as individual tooth replacements. But the expense of this approach with multiple teeth puts it well out of reach financially for many people. But implants can also be used as connective points between the patient's jaw and other kinds of dental restorations like bridges, partial dentures, and full removable or fixed dentures.

Using this approach, we can adopt a strategy of allowing healthier teeth to remain until it's necessary to remove them. We initially place implants to support a bridge, for example; later we can use the same implants along with additional ones to support a larger restoration, even a fixed full denture.

An implant-supported restoration is typically more expensive than traditional bridges or dentures, but far less than replacing teeth with individual implants. And because the stages of restorations may occur over a long period of time, the cost can be spread out to make it more manageable.

If you're facing a future where it's likely you'll lose all your teeth, you don't have to lose them all at once. Staged restorations with implants could help you hold on to your natural teeth for as long as possible, slow bone loss and make for a healthier mouth.

If you would like more information on the wide array of dental restoration options, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Replacing All Teeth But Not All at Once.”





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